Laila Keeling & Anjali Zyla
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I was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and moved to a city called Sidon when I was ten years old. I grew up there and attended school up until the 8th grade. My life in Sidon was pleasant, but there were problems with the war, so I left in 2016. My father died when I was younger and my sister is also in Germany now, but I still have contact with my family in Lebanon by telephone.

My journey to Germany lasted 27 days. I traveled with a large group by foot, car, bus, train, and ship from Lebanon to Syria, then on to Greece and Turkey, before finally arriving in Germany in February of 2016. When I first arrived, I visited my sister briefly and then was sent to a refugee camp in Eisenhüttenstadt. My sister has lived here for thirty years and has a German passport, so she thinks life in Germany is really good.

I, on the other hand, have only a Duldung status and have lived under the threat of deportation for the entire six years that I’ve been here. It’s difficult to compare our experiences because they’re so different, but I’ve struggled a lot more in Germany than my sister has. It was never my plan to come to Germany, but I knew that Germany was much safer than other countries and had more protections for human rights. So that’s why I’m surprised that I still have a Duldung status after six years here. I cannot work or take a German course, so I can only stay in the home all day.

Every day, I wake up early, take my son to school, check to see if I’ve gotten any mail, chat with the social worker in the home, go to the grocery store, cook, and wait for my family to come home. Day in, day out. The refugee home is not nice at all, either. The shared areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and showers are all dirty and old. People should not have to live here for seven years; the maximum amount of time someone should live here is maybe one or two years. I would love to have my own apartment, especially considering I’ve been here for so long.

Living in the refugee home is very difficult because there are no women who speak Arabic, so I don’t have any friends here. One of the social workers here speaks Arabic, so I like to chat with him every day, but outside of that I don’t have anyone to talk to when my family is gone during the day. So many people come and go that it’s hard to connect with anyone inside the home. I’ve become very lonely since I’ve been here, and I struggle with mental health issues. I go to therapy, but my son has to translate for me.

I would also appreciate tutoring for my 14 year-old son. I also have a stepson from my husband, but he doesn’t go to school here. My son can speak German well and often helps me with translating, but it would still be nice if there were tutoring to help him in school. I don’t want anything for myself, only for my son. He likes it here in Germany and has many friends, so I want to make sure he can be successful and find work here.

When I left Lebanon, I only wanted the safety and contentment that I knew Germany could provide. Now that I’m here, my life is definitely safer, but it is not better. My mental health has plummeted, and I feel broken since I’ve been in Germany. I don’t want more social security benefits, I only want to be able to work and pay taxes. My husband has just been allowed to work part-time, but I still have to wait to be able to work or even take a German class as a result of my Duldung status. It’s frustrating that the Ukrainian refugees have gotten so much more help in the first few weeks that they’ve been in Germany, while I’ve been here for seven years and am still struggling so much. Germans should treat refugees like equals and allow them to do more things while they’re here. I am thankful that Germany has given me a new life, but I can’t do anything. I only wish that Germans cared for their refugees more.

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